Three Ways Pride Distorts Our Thinking

Three Ways Pride Distorts Our Thinking

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Some people’s sin struggles are evident. If they wrestle with foul language or lying, you can hear it. If they wrestle with immodesty or drunkenness, you can see it. Some spiritual weaknesses, though, are insidiously difficult to see–especially in ourselves. In Luke 9:46-56, in events that follow each other in very short order, the disciples’ struggle with pride is exposed by Jesus. We can understand why they struggled with pride. They were walking with the Messiah! He was training them for a special mission. Now, the only matter for them to settle was how they ranked among each other. Jesus exposes that very mindset in these verses.

PRIDE SEEKS PREEMINENCE (46-48). The disciples argue among themselves about who might be the greatest. Not only is this childish, but it reflects their short memory. They just displayed a deficiency of faith that prevented them from casting out the unclean spirit. Perhaps Peter, James, and John, given privy to the transfiguration, might have felt that if they had been among these other disciples they would have been able to cast it out. We don’t know. All we know is that Jesus rebukes the very idea of the arguing by placing a child in their midst. Children were barely noticed among first-century adults, but Jesus makes paying attention to and ministering to the least of people the mark of greatness. Discipleship is not about glory and visibility. It’s about having our eyes open to the humble and our hearts open to serving them. 

PRIDE SHOWS PREJUDICE (49-50). While some have tried to use these verses to say that there are saved Christians in religious groups outside of the New Testament church, they totally misunderstand Jesus’ point (not to mention, miss the teaching of a great many passages). What was John’s bone of contention? There was a disciple of Jesus who was doing works in His name (acting by His authority; recognizing His identity). They tried to prevent him “because he does not follow along with us” (49). They concluded this person couldn’t be acceptable because he wasn’t accompanying them. Jesus knows this man is on His side, but the disciples’ needed to hear this: “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you” (50). This territorial mentality can creep into our thinking. We should hold hands with all those who are on the Lord’s side, doing the Lord’s work. This is true if it regards the good works of others in the local congregation or if it is area congregations. 

PRIDE SEEKS PUNISHMENT (51-56). Pride shows itself in a very different way shortly after this. Jesus sends some followers on a mission, but they were rejected. James and John’s solution was to exact vengeance on them. They were anxious to call down fire from heaven and consume them. Whatever they expected as Jesus’ reaction, they had to be surprised at His rebuke. He corrects their thinking, saying that He came to this earth to save rather than destroy men’s lives. Jesus’ solution was simply to move on to more receptive hearts (56). Sometimes our impatience with others or disappointment in their displays of unbelief can make us trigger happy. Whether we are indignant on the Lord’s behalf or we feel personally slighted, we need to remember the patient, charitable response Jesus makes to those who, in the moment, refused to receive Him. That patience and kindness may or may not ultimately reach their hearts, but it is the best route to success in trying to both be a disciple and win disciples for Jesus. 

Do a Bible search and see what God says about pride. It’s at the top of the list in those deadly sins of Proverbs 6:16-19, things God says He hates! Both Testaments say that it leads to our downfall (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). So often, we see it as a struggle for those who are already in the body of Christ. I must constantly watch for this self-centered behavior, keeping my focus on other disciples, the lost, the less fortunate and weak, and especially the Lord. Let me remember that it’s all about Him and them, and say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). 

Make My Day

Make My Day

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Conditioned response describes a person’s reaction to stimuli or situations. Those of you who watch The Office are probably already thinking about Jim Halpert’s famous prank on Dwight involving Altoids.

Conditioned response is also used in defense training. It’s developed through training and repetition. With enough preparation, a person can automatically respond to life-threatening situations with optimum safety and precision, regardless of inevitable panic. It’s basically autopilot for extreme situations.

God expects us to develop a conditioned response, too. He described it (through Paul) in I Corinthians 4.11-13.

Our conditioned response to physical beatings: nothing (4.11). Paul was punched a few times and likely did nothing in retaliation. Context reinforces this understanding of his silence on the subject.

Our conditioned response to being insulted should be to compliment the offender (4.12). If not verbally, we should mentally wish them only the best and mean it.

Our conditioned response to harassment should be acceptance with patience (4.12). Our conditioned response to character defamation should be gentle appeal (4.13).

This doesn’t come naturally at all. We’re taught to stand up for ourselves and not let people run over us! There’s a time and place for self-defense, but those times are, thankfully, quite rare.

What better way to show we genuinely love people than instinctively responding the way Paul did? Jesus made that a part of who He was, and we get eternal life because of it. We can actually help others find eternal life by instinctively reacting with love!

CHRIST AND CANCEL CULTURE

CHRIST AND CANCEL CULTURE

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

IF CHRIST CHAMPIONED CANCEL CULTURE…

  • The Samaritan woman stayed washed up.
  • The Prodigal Son is stuck in the pig pen.
  • Zaccheus is still up a tree.
  • Peter is still casting nets, not using His keys and feeding His sheep.
  • James and John, the sons of thunder, are all wet.
  • Saul of Tarsus kept holding coats and chasing down Christians.
  • Thomas drowned in his doubt.
  • The thief on the cross is hung out to dry.
  • John Mark might as well have stayed AWOL.
  • Hebrews 11, what with Noah (the drunk), Abraham (the liar), Moses (the murderer), Rahab (the harlot), etc., is never written.
  • At least five of the seven churches of Asia are in the dark.
  • All humanity is hopeless (Rom. 3:23).
  • He is neither faithful nor just (1 John 1:9). 
  • He never would have died on the cross (1 Tim. 2:6).

That is not to say that God “winks” at ignorance (Acts 17:30), indulges willful sin (Rom. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:26ff), or encourages walking in darkness (1 John 1:6ff). But, God is the God of the second (third, fourth, etc.) chance. He is perfectly patient (2 Pet. 3:9) and fully forgiving (Heb. 7:25). Perhaps our world is open to the Christ of the Bible now more than ever! 

THE ADVANTAGES OF ADVERSITY 

THE ADVANTAGES OF ADVERSITY 

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Safari 2017

Neal Pollard

Since March Madness begins later this week, I was reading about all the teams to help me fill out my brackets. I came across the incredible story of Damian Chong Qui, a guard for the Mount St. Mary’s basketball team that won the Northeast Conference tournament and will play Texas Southern for the right to play against Michigan. The odds of Mount St. Mary’s winning the NCAA tournament are so astronomical that the team is more likely to be hit by an asteroid in their team bus going to the arena to play, but Chong Qui symbolizes the team’s grit, determination, and uncanny ability to defy the odds. His story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Born and raised in crime-riddled East Baltimore, his father and mother were shot in separate incidents less than two months apart in 2002, when he was only four. His father recovered, but his mother was murdered. Eight years later, his father was shot again and paralyzed from the waist down. Damian has been his father’s most consistent caregiver since then, dressing him and helping him into his wheelchair. Damian found an outlet in basketball, starting on his High School basketball team as a freshman. He was only 4 feet, 9 inches tall. A growth spurt helped him reach his current height of 5 feet, 8 inches tall. No Division One teams showed interest, so he walked on with the Mountaineers. Not only did he go on to earn a scholarship, but he is a star and the heart and soul of this scrappy squad. From his father to coaches and teammates, Damian is called dependable, hardworking, and focused (much biographical data from a 1/17/20 Baltimore Sun article by Edward Lee: “…Damian Chong Qui has overcome tragedy to shine at Mount St. Mary’s”). 

There is no one who would want to go through what this young man has endured. Many might use such tragedy as an excuse or a crutch to let life defeat them, but Chong Qui shows the resiliency and resolve which is in mankind. While the Chong Quis do not sound especially devout, Damian’s father, Edward, said of him, “I feel like God has been working things out for him” (ibid.). 

God does not cause evil (Jas. 1:13), but God is able to bring about good in the worst of circumstances. It is evidence of His omnipotence and omniscience. Do you remember Job’s wise and righteous assessment, even as he was in the dark about the cause of his pain and suffering? He tells God, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (42:2). As James assesses Job’s situation, he writes, “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (5:11). Paul experienced this, too. He speaks of his “thorn in the flesh,” which God saw fit to allow him to retain. Why? Paul explains, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). 

Maybe you are struggling with some thorn in the flesh, some pain and suffering, some adverse circumstance that looms over you and seems poised to undo you. How will you respond? Will you see it as an advantage? A chance for God’s power to be perfected in weakness? For the power of Christ to dwell in you? As the means of strength in weakness? Do not forget that there is no force, earthly or spiritual, that can withstand the advantages that God can bring into your life even in times of greatest adversity! His purpose cannot be thwarted. And if our lives are being lived according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28), that is confidence that can propel us through the worst of situations! 

Damian Chong Qui

Do Not Gloat 

Do Not Gloat 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

A politically conservative thought leader died on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Not even an hour had elapsed from when the news was broken on his ground-breaking radio show by his widow that some of the most hateful comments began appearing on social media. As one who listened to his show periodically, I can attest that I never heard him utter any of the types of hateful speech of which Wikipedia readers and contributors accused him. Most of those hating him did so because of his powerful influence against their political ideology.  

The political Left viewed him as a Svengali that would brainwash millions if allowed to remain on the radio. Thus, rather than defeat him in the arena of ideas, they chose to slander him. The fascist propagandist Goebbels once said, “Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.” Those who never listened to him genuinely believe he was an ugly, divisive person. Thus, the deceased will have a mixed legacy depending upon whether someone took the time to listen to what he said. He will either be one to whom people said, “ditto,” or, as the Huffington Post put it, the “Bigoted King Of Talk Radio.”  

Now, the purpose of this post has nothing to do with politics or even the deceased. It has to do with the visceral reaction created by the news of the radio talker’s passing. As one who tends to soak up the room’s emotional atmosphere, I found myself negatively impacted by the unadulterated hatred. I was disappointed yet again by my fellowman. However, it was also a moment of introspection. Do I understand that God created this person in His image, just like me? (Genesis 1.26-27) If so, even if I vehemently disagreed with him, should I find even a modicum of the rationale necessary to express glee?  

Paul wrote that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat. And after stating this truth, Paul immediately added, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Corinthians 5.10-11a). Of what do we persuade men? We convince them to accept the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We recall Jesus’ final marching orders to us to take the Gospel to every nation and creature (Matthew 28.19-20; Mark 16.15-16). We know our time on earth is short (Psalm 90.10 & 12; James 4.14). Time is being allowed to continue to give men everywhere an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3.8-10). Once God’s longsuffering has ended, nothing remains for the disobedient other than flaming fire and vengeance (2 Thessalonians 1.6-12). 

We would all do well to recall the words of Solomon in Proverbs 24.17-18: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (NIV). Yes, God is aware of the feelings of our hearts. We must give an accounting of ourselves to Him. How terrible it would be if He found in our heart love only for those with whom we felt comfortable associating. John reminds us that our love must extend to our brother if we love God. Otherwise, we are a liar (1 John 4.20). Let us allow love to replace hatred, the Gospel’s utterance to replace vitriolic expressions, and a prayer for our enemy’s salvation supersede our schadenfreude at his downfall.   

“In The Wilderness”

“In The Wilderness”

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The original Hebrew name literally means, “In The Wilderness.” Later on, Greek translators referred to these inspired writings as “Numbers.” For the Israelite people, it was the historical record of how they were shaped and Divinely-groomed while making an unnecessarily long hike through desert lands (Not to be confused with “dessert land” which sounds far better). The book of Numbers also served, and still serves, as a way for God’s people to get a bird’s-eye view of how our lives are significantly better when we are following our Leader. While there are far too many spiritual applications to be in just one article, here are three great ones. 

  1. There is no one more patient than the Lord. It’s easy to cringe when the Israelites complain or rebel time and again but God showed them more patience than any of us are capable of. 
  2. God always keeps a promise. It may have taken them 40 years to reach Canaan, but He kept His promise. We’re on a wild ride right now as a country, but God is predictable when it comes to keeping His Word. You can make a no-risk bet that heaven is coming and it’s better than what you imagine it to be. 
  3. God is always glorified in the end. When you look at Numbers and the big picture, God is the hero. He’s rejected and tossed aside by the people on several occasions, but just like at the end of this age— He gets all the glory. 
“Moments of Meekness”

“Moments of Meekness”

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Have you ever experienced a moment of meekness? I did recently. I was driving “over the mountain” to go to a doctor’s appointment in Gainesville, Georgia. As I was making my way around the curves of US 19/129, I came upon a truck pulling a camper. He was the engine of a “train” consisting of about four cars. I was the “caboose.” Fortunately, I was in no rush. So, despite the driver’s lack of courtesy, making the traffic back up behind him without utilizing the slow vehicle pull-offs, I just enjoyed the tunes on my radio and tried to let the transmission do more braking than my brakes.  

As I sang along to a 1990s song, the truck pulling the camper drove through dense leaf debris. An enchanting scene suddenly unfolded. The sun shone through the trees, illuminating the fall colors. The bright blue sky was visible above. The rocky walls along the shoulder of the road glistened with water. And drifting leaves filled the air. The entire spectacle was likely only nanoseconds in length but magically seemed longer. That is an example of a moment of meekness. 

Have you ever wondered how the meek “inherit the earth” (Matthew 5.5)? Moments of meekness as the one described above punctuate the days of the meek. Such moments arise because of what it means to be meek. Meekness is not weakness. As used Biblically, meekness denotes gentleness and humility. Meekness was an adjective used to describe Moses (Numbers 12.3) and Jesus (Matthew 11.29). Neither men were weak. Moses died at 120, still full of vigor (Deuteronomy 34.7). Jesus made a “scourge of cords” (NASB) to drive out the temple’s money changers (John 2.15). Yet, Moses and Jesus were humble servants of God. They embodied the “still lifestyle” that knows the “I Am” is God (Psalm 46.10). Thus, as Burton Coffman notes in Matthew 5.5: 

“This is not a mere prophecy that the Christians shall be the landed gentry, but it is a statement that their relationship to the earth and its possessions shall be such as to bring them the greatest possible benefit and enjoyment of it.” 1  

There is nothing special about me. I am quite ordinary, except for having endured many physical hardships. Yet, I refused to become perturbed by life’s circumstances on that day, and that allowed the joy of my salvation bubble to the surface. I recognized my insignificance and God’s greatness. God created this beautiful world, and He showed me something fantastic in an instant. I could have easily been too distracted to notice. How sad!  

This moment of meekness makes me wonder how often I have squandered my inheritance. How oft have I refused to be still enough to see something special shown by God? Did I miss a moment of meekness when I worried about making it to an appointment on time? Did a miss a meek moment while distracted by my smartphone? Such moments of meekness may be a regular occurrence, and it is just that I have overlooked them.  

Let us strive to be still to see the moments of meekness God sends our way.     

Sources Sited: 

1 Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on Matthew 5:4”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999. 

 

“A GREAT WIFE”

“A GREAT WIFE”

Dale Pollard

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Hey men, what makes a good wife?

 If I had the courage to ask a few random guys watching the football game at the local Applebees, they might give me a few stereotypical male answers. Some of them might say, 

“Well a good wife should be a good cook!” 

or “A good wife makes sure I got tea in my glass when I sit in my chair at the end of the day.” Or “A good wife keeps the house nice and clean.” 

The question isn’t what makes a good maid— but a good wife. 

I’m one day in to my second year of marriage. I still have no idea what I’m doing. However, I know exactly what makes a good wife. 

Here are five qualities of, not just a good, but a great spouse. I’m incredibly blessed to see these things in my bride every day. 

A Good Wife Is…

  1. Filled with a desire To please God, more than her husband. 
  1. Not sinless but not satisfied with the status quo— she seeks to always grow spiritually.
  1. Constantly encouraging, but not afraid to be honest about the faults in her husband.
  1. Focused on eternity and helps her husband focus on eternity. Every day.
  1. Forgiving, just like Jesus. 

According to scripture, a good wife is someone that’s always growing but will always be a child of God. 

Proverbs 31 

Now, excuse me— my wife needs me to run an errand for her. 🙂 

Outside Time 

Outside Time 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Our Creator is eternal. Hence, he has and will always exist. Having no beginning, He will never have an end. It hurts our feeble brains to try and comprehend this truth, but we accept it, seeing it with an “eye of faith.” Time is a concept held only by the mortal construct of an immortal God. Time means nothing to Him. Since that is the case, a couple of truth becomes evident.

Since God is outside time, He can work out what is best in our life.  From our perspective, life is a complex picture puzzle with pieces collected over some 70 or 80 years (cf. Psalm 90.10). Since Adam opened “Pandora’s Box” of sin, those pieces of the puzzle handed to us do not always make sense. Sin may cause a single bit even to hurt us. Yet, God’s Providence ensures it works out in accordance to His Divine Will (Romans 8.28). God knows how the completed puzzle picture looks. No piece escapes His observation. So, even if a part was not what He had hoped because sin marred the edges, He still ensures that those pieces fall into the right place. When we leave this world, perhaps, we will see the completed picture too. Like the apostle Paul, we might gain clarity before our departure. Paul had a good grasp of his life as he summed it up for Timothy (2 Timothy 4.6-8). Hopefully, we will speak as confidently as Paul concerning our future when granted the clarity of life’s impending end.

Since God is outside time, He is longsuffering. I do not seek to diminish God’s love in making this case. I merely emphasize what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3.8-9:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (NASB)

Contextually, the two ideas are related. God’s lack of concept of time equals longsuffering. Can you see how that makes sense? Would it not be easier to be patient with someone if you had no idea of time? We lose patience with others since we feel we can quantify progress with a predetermined amount of time: “I asked you to do this a week ago, and you still have not completed it?” (Can you not hear the frustration in that question? Maybe you even read it in your mind with a voice of exasperation.) Yet, time does not constrain God. He sees the beginning and end of our life simultaneously. Thus, that one becoming a worker at the eleventh hour is paid the same wage as those laborers working all day (cf. Matthew 20.1-15).

We could give other examples to illustrate the benefits of God’s existence outside time, such as how that quality of God enabled prophets to write with 100% about events that would occur hundreds of years after the seer’s lifetime. Hopefully, though, we have considered enough to enrich our faith. Yes, God’s existence outside time enables His Providence to work flawlessly and suffer each of us long. We serve an amazing God!

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Tolerating Different Opinions

Tolerating Different Opinions

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Dale and I were recently talking about the marked differences in preference among gun owners, bikers, etc. He made the observation that those who are pro-fill-in-the-blank (revolvers vs magazine-fed, 1911 vs Glock, etc., cruisers vs sport bike, Chevy vs Ford, and so on) are often very enthusiastic about their preference and very hostile to what is the antithesis of their preference. 

To use the term in its purest and least twisted sense, there is very little tolerance concerning differences of opinion among those who are passionate about the same things. With motorcycles, those who enjoy cruisers might scoff at those who prefer sport bikes. “They’re more difficult to maintain, you can’t practically go long distances, they’re more dangerous…” Sport bikers might do the same, “Cruisers aren’t as fast or agile, they’re old man bikes, you lose so much power with a belt or shaft drive, they don’t look as cool…” We could go on forever, but if you have any interests where differences of opinion abound (which is just about any hobby or interest), you know what I’m talking about. 

We face the same things in the church. Culture influences our preferences in matters of opinion, and I don’t have to go into detail about those opinions or traditions. We’re aware of the range of preferences and the way we can be tempted to respond to opposing preferences. Of course, I’m not talking about doctrines that cannot and should never be altered, but of opinions and traditions that do not affect salvation. 

The same responses we observe in every other aspect of our lives – passionate support or passionate opposition – can sometimes be observed in the church. We exist in the world, but we are supposed to be different from the world. Matthew 5.43ff tells us that we should love our enemies. We sometimes treat those with different preferences in the church as enemies; the level of hostility that we (and I mean me, too) can show over those preferences proves this. Do we love them anyway? Are we praying for them? 

Matthew 5.46-48 points out (in principle) that if we’re only nice to those on “our side,” it means nothing. In fact, it’s wrong! Twice in this passage we are called to change and be different from everyone else. That is a salvation issue. 

The word “tolerance” has become perverted over the last generation or so, but we can’t forget that it does play a role in our faith. We must not tolerate false doctrine, but we must tolerate our differences in matters of opinion. This carries over to everything we’re passionate about! 

How we treat those who disagree with us will show others who we serve far more effectively than our professed beliefs will. Does our treatment of those with whom we disagree show that we are genuinely Christian, or does it serve as a perfect deterrent? This is up to us. As things slowly return to normal we can change the status quo in a very positive way – let’s make the best of it!